WCHA Week 18: Stretch Drive Continues, With Just Three Weeks Remaining
Three Teams Tied For Fifth (Including OSU And SCSU, Who Meet In Columbus); UW, UMN, UMD And UND Have Clinched Home-Ice
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Ohio State hosts St. Cloud State this weekend. The two teams, currently part of a three-way tie for fifth place, split Nov. 11-12 in St. Cloud.

Opening Face-Off

- Topping the Polls: The women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) once again has three of the top-four teams in the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine polls. Wisconsin remains the unanimous No. 1 in both, followed by No. 2 Minnesota Duluth and No. 4 Minnesota. A fourth WCHA team, North Dakota, is receiving votes in both polls.

- Playoff Chase: The current top-four teams in the WCHA standings have clinched home ice for the 2017 WCHA Quarterfinals, as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota will all host best-of-three series the weekend of Feb. 24-26.

  • It is mathematically possible for Wisconsin to clinch its second-consecutive WCHA regular season championship this weekend. The Badgers need a combination of 10 points against Minnesota (either UW points gained or Gophers' points lost), and a combo of nine points vs. Minnesota Duluth to earn the crown outright (nine and eight points, respectively, to clinch a tie).
  • With just three weekends remaining on the regular season schedule, there is a three-way tie for fifth place. Bemidji State, Ohio State and St. Cloud State all enter the weekend with 19 points apiece.

- Every Game, Every Rink: Between a challenging nonconference slate and the gauntlet of arguably the nation's premier conference, WCHA teams are playing some of D-I's toughest schedules, per the RPI Strength-of-Schedule ledger.

  • As of Feb. 2, the top-seven toughest schedules in the country belong to WCHA teams, while the entire membership is in the top-20.
  • St. Cloud State has played D-I's toughest schedule to date, while Wisconsin ranks second, Minnesota Duluth is third, Bemidji State is fourth, Minnesota is fifth, Ohio State is sixth, North Dakota is seventh and Minnesota State is 16th.

- Winning Hockey: Despite these tough schedules, five WCHA teams have reached double-digit win totals, while half of league membership is at .500-or-better entering the weekend.

  • Wisconsin has the nation's top winning percentage at .907 (24-2-1). Minnesota Duluth is tied for fifth at .769 (18-4-4), Minnesota is seventh at .759 (19-5-3) and North Dakota is 14th at .571 (13-9-6).

- We Are WCHA: Once again, the top-four teams in NCAA D-I women's hockey for average and total attendance are WCHA schools.

  • Wisconsin leads the country with an average of 3,146 fans per game (including 13 dates at LaBahn Arena and one home contest at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.); Minnesota is second by welcoming 1,733 each night (including 11 dates at Ridder Arena and one home contest at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minn.); Minnesota Duluth ranks third by hosting 1,182 per contest at AMSOIL Arena; and, North Dakota is fourth with an average of 911 per game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

By the Numbers

- 3a: Shutouts by St. Cloud State goaltender Janine Alder, most ever by a SCSU freshman and tied for the most in a single season by any Huskies netminder.

- 3b: Players that reached the career 100-point plateau last weekend. Friday, North Dakota senior Amy Menke became the seventh player in program history to join the century club. Saturday saw a pair of Wisconsin teammates reach the milestone, as senior Sydney McKibbon and junior Emily Clark became the 23rd and 24th Badgers, respectively, to record 100 career points.

- 5: Categories in which Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens leads the country: wins (20), winning percentage (.932), goals-against average (0.72), save percentage (.958) and shutouts (11).

- 17: Current point streak by Minnesota Duluth senior forward Ashleigh Brykaliuk, the second-longest in program history. Only Hanne Sikio has recorded a longer scoring spree as Bulldog, posting a 23-game run during the 1999-2000 season in which the Finnish Olympian tallied 17 goals and 31 assists for 48 points.

- 17: Career shutouts for Bemidji State senior goaltender Brittni Mowat, one away from matching former All-American Zuzanna Tomcikova for the all-time program record. She currently owns BSU career records in wins (59), games played (125), goals-against average (1.99) and save percentage (.932).

- 51: NCAA-leading points total by Minnesota forward Kelly Pannek, on 14 goals and 37 assists. The junior also leads the country in points per game (1.37), assists and assists per game (1.37). She has tallied a point in 24 of the Gophers' 26 contests thus far.

- 882: NCAA-best saves by Ohio State's Kassidy Sauve, 168 more than the next-highest goaltender and 222 more than the second-place WCHA netminder. The redshirt-sophomore ranks third nationally with a .946 save percentage and tied for third with six shutouts.

- 2,015: Career saves by Minnesota State senior goaltender Brianna Quade, just the fifth goaltender in program history to reach the 2,000-stop plateau.


The Week Ahead

- No. 1 Wisconsin at Bemidji State: The top-ranked Badgers, winners of 10-straight, continue their pursuit of the WCHA regular season crown with a series at Bemidji State, which is jostling for playoff position. UW swept BSU on Nov. 5-6 in Madison, outscoring the Beavers 11-0 in the series.

- North Dakota at No. 2 Minnesota Duluth: Upper-division rivals meet in Duluth, as the No. 2 Bulldogs -- just a point out of second place -- host the Fighting Hawks. The teams played a tight series Nov. 12-13, with UMD earning four points with a 2-1 win and 2-2 tie (UND took the shootout).

- No. 4 Minnesota at Minnesota State: In-state rivals face-off in Mankato, as the Mavericks host the No. 4 Gophers. Minnesota is riding a 44-game unbeaten streak in the series (43-0-1), including wins in all three meetings this season.

- St. Cloud State at Ohio State: A huge series in deciding final playoff positioning, as the Buckeyes welcome the Huskies to Columbus. The two teams, currently part of a three-way tie for fifth place, split Nov. 11-12 in St. Cloud.


The Week in Review

- North Dakota and Bemidji State played a pair of closely contested games in a home-and-home series, with the Fighting Hawks coming away with five points.

- Red-hot Minnesota Duluth remained undefeated in 2017, as the No. 2 Bulldogs ran their unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) with a sweep of visiting Ohio State.

- After a nail-biter in the series opener, No. 4 Minnesota took a 5-0 decision in the series finale to complete a road sweep at St. Cloud State.

- Top-ranked Wisconsin ran its winning streak to 10-straight games with a sweep of visiting Minnesota State.

- Full recaps and box scores are available at wcha.com.


North Dakota 3, at Bemidji State 1
at North Dakota 1, Bemidji State 1 - OT (UND wins shootout, 3-2)
(Jan. 27 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn. and Jan. 29 at Ralph Engelstad Arena; Grand Forks, N.D.)

North Dakota and Bemidji State played a pair of closely contested games in a home-and-home series, with the Fighting Hawks coming away with five points.

Visiting UND used a strong opening period to set the stage for a 3-1 win Friday in Bemidji, as Sarah Lecavalier and Amy Menke scored near the end of the period for a 2-0. Menke's goal stood as her 100th career point, as she became the seventh player in UND program history to reach the milestone. Emily Bergland cut the BSU deficit to just a goal at the 12:13 mark of the second period her 10th goal of the year. That would be all North Dakota goaltender Lexie Shaw would let past during a 34-save effort, while Charly Dahlquist added a late insurance goal.

The teams traveled to Grand Forks for the finale on Sunday, where goals were few and far between. Bergland got her second goal of the weekend six minutes after the puck dropped to give the Beavers an early lead. Things stayed there as goaltenders Shaw (23 saves) and Brittni Mowat (28 stops) battled it out, until Dahlquist snuck one on the power-play to bring the contest even. The teams skated to a 1-1 tie, while Emma Nuutinen's fourth-round shootout goal and Shaw's stop gave UND the extra point.


at No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 6, Ohio State 1
at No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 3, Ohio State 0
(Jan 27 and 28 at AMSOIL Arena; Duluth, Minn.)

Red-hot Minnesota Duluth remained undefeated in 2017, as the No. 2 Bulldogs ran their unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) with a sweep of visiting Ohio State.

The teams played a stingy defensive battle through two periods Friday, before UMD scored five in first 9:35 of the third for a 6-1 win. With the score tied 1-1 early in the third, Bulldogs' senior Katherine McGovern broke the tie with her 14th goal of the year. UMD kept up the offensive pressure, as Sidney Morin, Jessica Healey and Maria Lindh all scored goals in a 40-second span midway through the stanza to secure the victory. McGovern wrapped up the scoring with her second goal of the period.

The Bulldogs received goals from three different players and an 18-save shutout from Maddie Rooney to finish the sweep with a 3-0 win Saturday. Linnea Hedin scored the game's opening goal at the 7:52 mark of the first, while Ashleigh Brykaliuk and Lara Stalder scored in the second and third periods, respectively.


No. 4 Minnesota 2, at St. Cloud State 1
No. 4 Minnesota 5, at St. Cloud State 0
(Jan. 27 and 28 at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center; St. Cloud, Minn.)

After a nail-biter in the series opener, No. 4 Minnesota took a 5-0 decision in the series finale to complete a road sweep at St. Cloud State.

Friday's series opener was a taut, back-and-forth affair, with the Gophers emerging with a 2-1 triumph. Minnesota freshman Kippin Keller found the back of the net early in the opening period for her first career goal to give the Gophers an early lead. The Huskies came back in the second, as senior Payge Pena knotted the contest at 1-1. Still tied into the third period, the Gophers' Nicole Schammel scored the tie-breaking, game-winning goal at the 7:29 mark.

Scoreless into the second period Saturday, Minnesota scored three times in the frame and twice more in the third stanza for a 5-0 victory. Sarah Potomak, Taylor Williamson, Schammel and Lee Stecklein put the Gophers on top, 4-0, while sophomore Tianna Gunderson closed the scoring with her first career goal. SCSU goaltender Madeleine Dahl still had an astounding 50 saves in her third appearance of the season. The Gophers' Sidney Peters made 12 stops for the shutout.


at No. 1 Wisconsin 5, Minnesota State 0
at No. 1 Wisconsin 6, Minnesota State 1
(Jan 27 and 28 at LaBahn Arena; Madison, Wis.)

Top-ranked Wisconsin ran its winning streak to 10-straight games with a sweep of visiting Minnesota State.

Friday, the Mavericks kept within striking distance for most of the game, but the Badgers used a balanced offensive attack and pulled away late for a 5-0 victory. After Mekenzie Steffen gave the Badgers the lead in the first, Annie Pankowski doubled the lead early in the second with her 16th goal of the season. Once the third started, the Badgers put the game away with three goals, including Pankowski's second of the contest, to finish off the Mavericks. UW senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens made 15 saves for her NCAA-best 11th shutout of the season.

The Badgers continued the offensive firepower in the series finale, this time dispatching the visitors early. Goals by Sydney McKibbon, Sarah Nurse and Presley Norby gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead heading into the first intermission. Emily Clark's 10th goal of the season in the second period put the game out of reach as the Badgers completed the sweep with a 6-1 win. The contest also featured Badger teammates McKibbon and Clark becoming the 23rd and 24th UW players all-time, respectively, to reach the career 100-point milestone.